Face Off JRA 2015: Are traditional rituals still relevant in modern life? (Negative)

By Rai Anna-L, 17, University of Hong Kong
By Rai Anna-L, 17, University of Hong Kong |

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Traditional rituals differ from culture to culture but surely you and I have both been part of them - for example, having Thanksgiving dinner or eating mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Festival. These traditions are handed down from one generation to the next like precious family heirlooms, but does this necessarily mean they are still relevant?

Countless rituals revolve around myths and superstitions stemming from people's need to understand the world at a time when there was little scientific knowhow. For instance, people celebrate full moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is based on a tragic - but clearly unscientific - story. Therefore, continuing to uphold rituals seems ignorant, when we are clearly aware that the reasons behind those traditions are flawed.

It is true that not all rituals are built on false beliefs. Many traditions have a religious background and there's a purpose behind them. However, after performing these rituals again and again over hundreds of years, they begin to lose their significance, and are mostly regarded as formalities. 

As many parents probably agree, I doubt that a lot of people think about the reasons behind giving lai see during Lunar New Year or exchanging presents during Christmas. So should we continue those traditions just for the sake of having a familiar routine?

Others say we need rituals to keep cultures alive. But many widely practised traditional rituals have questionable motives - for example, human greed or old-fashioned ideas. Consider the bride's family giving a dowry to the husband's, which is still practised in many places. Why must they give riches to the husband's family when they are taking their precious daughter away from them? Should such exploitation continue in the name of tradition?

Modern humans have "seen the light", so why are we still trying to blindfold ourselves by keeping traditional rituals alive? Times have changed, and with them, certain unreasonable traditions are meant to fade away.